Plastic Debris in our Waterbodies

Write an essay about how plastics debris pollutes our waterbodies and how to control this.


Plastic Debris in our Waterbodies



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Plastic Debris in our Waterbodies

“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry” is a famous quote by Thomas Fuller. According to (Emmerik et al. (2020), “Plastic is a synthetic material made from hydrocarbons that can be molded in solid objects of almost all shapes and sizes” (p.1). “By c racking crude oil, a variety of petrochemicals are obtained that serve as a basis for plastics” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “P lastics including polyethylene and polypropylene (PP) are synthesized from olefins, while other plastics are synthesized from aromatic hydrocarbons, such as polystyrene (PS) and polyamide (PA) (nylon)’ (Emmerik et al., 2020 p.1). “P lastics come in a variety of configurations, depending on the used chemical building blocks” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “The olefins, PP and PE, are used in all applications but mainly in packaging, PVC is mostly used in the building sector, Polyesters and PAs (nylon) are the main polymers found in textiles” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1) “Nowadays, the sectors using plastics are roughly divided in; packaging, building, transportation, electronics, textiles, and safety and leisure. In 2017, an estimated 348 million tons of plastic was produced worldwide” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “Due to its qualities, plastics have replaced heavier and more expensive materials such as glass, steel, and aluminum” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “In packaging, the use of plastic resulted in a high level of food preservation, decreasing food waste, and increasing the expiration date and transport possibilities” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “Initially, plastics were mainly used for long-lasting items. Nowadays, a growing portion of plastic is used for single-use purposes” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). Thus, since their invention, plastics have greatly contributed to our society, both positively and negatively.

Plastic debris contributes to environmental pollution. According to Sebille et al. (2020), “Plastic debris has rapidly become one of the most pervasive and permanent pollutants, particularly in marine ecosystems” (p.1). “It occurs in all compartments of the ocean worldwide and has a range of adverse environmental and economic impacts” (Sebille et al., 2020, p.1). According to Babafemi et al. (2018), “The abundance of waste plastic is a major issue for the sustainability of the environment as plastic pollutes rivers, land, and oceans” (p.1). “However, the versatile behavior of plastic (it is lightweight, flexible, strong, moisture-resistant, and cheap) can make it a replacement for or alternative to many existing composite materials like concrete” (Babafemi et al., 2018, p.1). “Over the past few decades, many researchers have used waste plastic as a replacement for aggregates in concrete” (Babafemi et al., 2018, p.1). “concrete, which does not negatively influence the engineering properties of concrete” (Babafemi et al., 2018, p.1). “Waste materials such as plastics and glass, which present possible environmental hazards and are often landfilled, are often used in concrete for different applications” (Babafemi et al., 2018, p.1). “However, waste plastics are generally a threat to the global environment, and while the production of plastics in its varied forms cannot be halted, recycling may be a solution to the threat waste plastics pose to the environment” (Babafemi et al., 2018, p.1). Plastic have polluted our water bodies; therefore, strategies should be implemented to combat this problem, such as recycling.

Plastics Debris in Our Waterbodies

P lastic debris is one of the factors that contribute to water pollution. According to Emmerik et al. (2020) “as more plastic waste started to accumulate in the natural environment, it became clear that plastic pollution can become an environmental hazard” (p.1). “As plastics are designed to last, inappropriately disposed plastic items remain in nature for a prolonged time and to date, most research efforts to quantify plastic pollution and its effects have focused on the marine environment” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “Prevailing winds and surface currents transport plastics in the ocean, and although plastics have been found in all ocean regions, the highest plastic concentrations in surficial water have been reported in the subtropical gyres” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “These gyres are identified as the five main accumulation zones for surface plastics” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “The North Pacific Ocean gyre, infamously known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is predicted to carry at least 45–129 thousand tons of plastic waste and is still exponentially growing” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “Plastics can enter the marine environment through riverine and coastal sources or through direct disposal at sea” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “For the latter, aquaculture equipment and abandoned and lost fishing gear are a main source of plastic waste” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “Plastic litter can result in entanglement and ingestion by aquatic life such as turtles, birds, and fish, causing severe injuries and death” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “Plant species, such as mangrove forest trees and their associated fauna, are reported to be negatively affected by plastic litter, as these ecosystems function as accumulation zones” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “Plastic pollution also negatively impacts human livelihood, as plastic waste clogs urban drainage infrastructure, increasing flood risk’ (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “Furthermore, plastic litter causes severe economic losses through damage to vessels and fishing gear, negative effects on the tourism industry, and increased shoreline cleaning efforts” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). Thus, plastic debris is one of the factors contributing to water pollution, and plastics in the ocean are transported by prevailing winds and surface currents, although plastics have been found in all ocean regions.

How to Control the Levels of Plastic Debris that Pollute Waterbodies

Recycling of Plastics

Recycling of plastic is one of the ways to control the levels of plastic debris that pollute waterbodies.   “Recycling of various types of organic and inorganic waste such as construction, electronics, and agricultural waste, among others, has drawn much attention due to the increasing cost of dumping the waste and decreasing space in landfills” (Babafemi et al., 2018, p.1). According to Emmerik et al. (2020) the moment, only 9% of all plastics ever made are recycled; This is mostly done through mechanical recycling. Mechanical recycling is an open loop recycling, meaning that the recycled plastics are used for different purposes than where they were recovered from” (p.2). “New recycling techniques are being developed that might improve recyclability which can result in potential closed loop recycling and these methods include chemical recycling (by dissolving the plastic in a solvent) and thermochemical recycling (pyrolysis)” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.2).  “It is often suggested that a considerable share of total marine plastic litter originates from land, which is transported by rivers into the ocean” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “Riverine plastic transport remains relatively understudied in comparison to marine plastic litter, emphasizing the urgency to increase the global knowledge on plastic pollution in freshwater ecosystems” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “Research on riverine plastic debris transport is a relatively young science. The first efforts to quantify riverine plastic debris flow were done only in the early 2010s and included sampling of waterways in Europe and North America, such as the Los Angeles area” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “Again, the recycling of all sorts of waste materials is sustainable and conserves natural resources” (Babafemi et al., 2018, p.1). “Millions of tons of plastic waste are generated all around the world, and they frequently find their way into rivers, coast, beaches, and the land; only about 25% of plastic waste is recycled around the world’ (Babafemi et al., 2018, p.1).  “These field-based studies provided valuable insights in plastic polymer composition, plastic debris concentrations, and variation over time and space” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “Complementary to river-specific case studies, modeling approaches provided the first global estimates of plastic emission into the oceans, and these assessments are extremely valuable as they present a first-order approximation of the expected magnitude and geographical distribution of riverine plastic transport” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “These insights can be used to further develop and harmonize plastic debris quantification methods and reveal geographical knowledge gaps” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). “Although collection and recycling rates have increased over time, yet approximately 79% of all plastics ever made have ended up into landfills or leaked into the natural environment” (Emmerik et al., 2020, p.1). Thus, recycling plastic is one way to control the levels of plastic residue that pollute waterbodies because recycling all sorts of waste materials is sustainable and conserves natural resources.


In conclusion, it is important to control the amount of plastic residue ending up in the water bodies because they are harmful to the e cosystem. There are many ways to control this, for example, by Practising responsible plastic use, implementing effective waste management practices, encouraging the use of biodegradable bags instead of plastic, and lastly, recycling the plastic materials so that the residue could not end up in the water bodies. By m inimizing the plastic residue in our waterbodies, we can ensure that we do not pollute our environment.




Babafemi, A. J., Šavija, B., Paul, S. C., & Anggraini, V. (2018). Engineering properties of concrete with waste recycled plastic: A review. Sustainability10(11), 3875.

van Emmerik, T., & Schwarz, A. (2020). Plastic debris in rivers. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water7(1), e1398.

Van Sebille, E., Aliani, S., Law, K. L., Maximenko, N., Alsina, J. M., Bagaev, A., … & Wichmann, D. (2020). The physical oceanography of the transport of floating marine debris. Environmental Research Letters15(2), 023003.




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